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  • Popplestone, Ann
    Professor Ashley Montagu, 94, Popularizer of Science By ANTHONY RAMIREZ Ashley Montagu, the London-born anthropologist and popular author whose energy,
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 29, 1999
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      'Professor' Ashley Montagu, 94, Popularizer of Science
      By ANTHONY RAMIREZ

      Ashley Montagu, the London-born anthropologist and popular
      author whose energy, erudition and showmanship brought genetics,
      paleontology and other topics in the life sciences to a wide American
      audience, died Friday in Princeton, N.J. He was 94.
      The author of more than 60 books, Montagu recently completed
      a substantial revision, published this year, of his influential 1953 book,
      "The Natural Superiority of Women," and was collaborating with his
      biographer, Susan Sperling, when he was hospitalized in March. He died of
      protracted cardiovascular disease, Ms. Sperling said in an interview.
      Montagu's wide-ranging career as a freelance commentator on
      nearly everything human, along with his white hair, owlish glasses and pipe,
      made him the public picture of the professor in the 1950s and 1960s. But
      despite a voluminous production of scholarly works, he was unable to win
      tenure at any of the universities where he taught, according to Ms.
      Sperling. That slight was due, in part, to his ideas about the equality of
      the races and the sexes, which were startling for their day, she said.
      Montagu wrote books on anthropology, human anatomy,
      intelligence, marriage, why people cry and the history of swearing, as well
      as an account of John Merrick, the severely disfigured man of Victorian
      England known as the "Elephant Man." His commentary extended even to the
      prehistoric. He bristled at the cartoon depiction of Neanderthal men as
      brutes who clubbed their women over the head, and would dash off a scathing
      letter to the editor whenever he read such a depiction, which he said
      ignored evidence of the essential gentleness of Neanderthals.
      Henrika Kuklick, a University of Pennsylvania professor of
      the sociology of science, said Montagu was "someone who bridged the academic
      and the popular. His works were both accessible and academically
      respectable." Ms. Kuklick, author of "The Savage Within: The Social History
      of British Anthropology, 1885-1945" (Cambridge University Press, 1991),
      added that "as a public intellectual, he ranks below Margaret Mead, but far
      above many others who I won't name."
      Jonathan Marks, who teaches biological anthropology at the
      University of California, noted that Montagu's interests included genetics
      and anatomy, a range that would be nearly impossible in today's academia.
      "He and Max Levitan wrote a standard textbook on human
      genetics that was used into the late 1970s, even though Montagu's original
      training was in anatomy," said Marks. "It's as if you could write equally
      well about architecture and the detailed mixing of concrete."
      Montague Francis Ashley Montagu was born Israel Ehrenberg on
      June 28, 1905, in the East End, or largely working-class section, of London.
      In previous biographical articles, Montagu apparently said or made it known
      that he was the son of a stockbroker in the City of London, the financial
      district, but his father was really a tailor, a Polish-born Jew, and his
      mother a Russian-born Jew, according to Ms. Sperling. Although an agnostic,
      Montagu later acknowledged his Jewish heritage. He took his last name after
      Lady Mary Montagu, an 18th century woman of letters and feminist, and the
      other parts of his name after other writers he admired, Ms. Sperling said.
      "I don't know why exactly he changed his name," Ms. Sperling
      said. "He was ambitious to do great things and as Israel, well, that would
      have been an impediment in British academia."
      The classic autodidact, Montagu as a teenager puzzled his
      parents by visiting London's used-book stores and buying second-hand copies
      of challenging authors like Thomas Henry Huxley, the British biologist who
      championed Darwin. At 15, he won a literary contest and selected William
      McDougall's "Introduction to Social Psychology" as his prize. He was perhaps
      the first undergraduate to study physical anthropology at the University of
      London.
      He pursued his graduate studies at Columbia University in
      1927, interrupting his studies there to work in ethnology and anthropology
      in Italy and physical anthropology at a medical museum in London. He got his
      Ph.D. from Columbia in 1937 after studying under pioneers of anthropology
      like Franz Boas.
      In 1953, he told an interviewer that the United States had
      had a profound effect on him. "I was brought up a stuffed-shirt Englishman.
      I wasn't very human. What America did for me was to humanize me. Democratize
      me, beginning with the man who examined my luggage on the dock in 1927. He
      didn't call me 'sir' and I resented it."
      Montagu won his first fame in the 1940s by arguing that race
      was a social construct, a product of perceptions about race, rather than a
      biological fact. He was a principal drafter of a U.N. "Statement on Race" in
      1949 that incorporated these ideas.
      His most noticed work, however, was his 1953 book "The
      Natural Superiority of Women," in which he argued that men were a form of
      "incomplete" woman and that women were in many ways biologically superior.
      The attention and the sales from the book allowed him to resign his teaching
      position at Rutgers University in 1955.
      The controversy, in those prefeminist days, was enormous,
      but nonthreatening. With his willingness to return reporters' telephone
      calls, Montagu was widely quoted and therefore influential. His professorial
      manner and dry wit made him a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show" with
      Johnny Carson.
      A television producer of the day captured his appeal. "All
      he does is play himself -- a professor," Bob Herridge, a WCBS-TV producer,
      told an interviewer. "He talks about stuff like early paleolithic culture
      and stone artifacts of the upper Mesozoic period and you should see the fan
      mail! It's fantastic!"
      In later years, he expanded his commentary to things like
      Ivy League dress. "The Ivy League look in men's fashions is to be deplored
      on a number of grounds, if not on the ground of taste itself," he wrote in
      1958.
      Although an occasional pipe smoker at one point in his life,
      he opposed tobacco in public places. If smoking cannot be banned on
      airplanes, smokers should at least be segregated to the back of the plane,
      he wrote in 1971. "It would be a simple act of civility and serve to
      increase the pleasure of both nonsmokers and smokers -- the nonsmokers
      breathing relatively unpolluted air and the smokers enjoying the pollution
      of others as well as their own."
      Montagu is survived by his wife, the former Marjorie Peakes,
      and three children, Audrey Murphy of Sutton, Mass.; Barbara Johnstone of
      Princeton, and Geoffrey Montagu of Los Angeles. He also had four
      grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
    • Lewine, Mark
      Like countless others of my generation who continue to view race as central to scientific, anthropological and public discourse, I am saddened to hear of the
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 29, 1999
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        Like countless others of my generation who continue to view race as central
        to scientific, anthropological and public discourse, I am saddened to hear
        of the death of Ashley Montagu. From Andy Lyons biographical review of him
        at a recent AAA meeting, many of us were surprised to learn of his original
        identity as Israel Ehrenberg and of his reluctance to reveal this to the
        public. How ironic that a man who was such a courageous and creative leader
        in the effort to replace racist and sexist language and thought in our
        personal and professional lives was such a complete victim of anti-semitism.
        As in the case of so many before and after him, his work transcends his
        person and lives on in the work of so many others.

        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: Popplestone, Ann [SMTP:Ann.Popplestone@...]
        > Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 2:27 PM
        > To: 'sacc-l@onelist.com'
        > Subject: [SACC-L] obit from NY times
        >
        > 'Professor' Ashley Montagu, 94, Popularizer of Science
        > By ANTHONY RAMIREZ
        >
        > Ashley Montagu, the London-born anthropologist and popular author
        > whose energy, erudition and showmanship brought genetics, paleontology and
        > other topics in the life sciences to a wide American audience, died Friday
        > in Princeton, N.J. He was 94.
        >
        > The author of more than 60 books, Montagu recently completed
        > a substantial revision, published this year, of his influential 1953 book,
        > "The Natural Superiority of Women," and was collaborating with his
        > biographer, Susan Sperling, when he was hospitalized in March. He died of
        > protracted cardiovascular disease, Ms. Sperling said in an interview.
        >
        > Montagu's wide-ranging career as a freelance commentator on
        > nearly everything human, along with his white hair, owlish glasses and
        > pipe, made him the public picture of the professor in the 1950s and 1960s.
        > But despite a voluminous production of scholarly works, he was unable to
        > win tenure at any of the universities where he taught, according to Ms.
        > Sperling. That slight was due, in part, to his ideas about the equality of
        > the races and the sexes, which were startling for their day, she said.
        >
        > Montagu wrote books on anthropology, human anatomy,
        > intelligence, marriage, why people cry and the history of swearing, as
        > well as an account of John Merrick, the severely disfigured man of
        > Victorian England known as the "Elephant Man." His commentary extended
        > even to the prehistoric. He bristled at the cartoon depiction of
        > Neanderthal men as brutes who clubbed their women over the head, and would
        > dash off a scathing letter to the editor whenever he read such a
        > depiction, which he said ignored evidence of the essential gentleness of
        > Neanderthals.
        >
        > Henrika Kuklick, a University of Pennsylvania professor of
        > the sociology of science, said Montagu was "someone who bridged the
        > academic and the popular. His works were both accessible and academically
        > respectable." Ms. Kuklick, author of "The Savage Within: The Social
        > History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945" (Cambridge University Press,
        > 1991), added that "as a public intellectual, he ranks below Margaret Mead,
        > but far above many others who I won't name."
        >
        > Jonathan Marks, who teaches biological anthropology at the
        > University of California, noted that Montagu's interests included genetics
        > and anatomy, a range that would be nearly impossible in today's academia.
        >
        > "He and Max Levitan wrote a standard textbook on human
        > genetics that was used into the late 1970s, even though Montagu's original
        > training was in anatomy," said Marks. "It's as if you could write equally
        > well about architecture and the detailed mixing of concrete."
        >
        > Montague Francis Ashley Montagu was born Israel Ehrenberg on
        > June 28, 1905, in the East End, or largely working-class section, of
        > London. In previous biographical articles, Montagu apparently said or made
        > it known that he was the son of a stockbroker in the City of London, the
        > financial district, but his father was really a tailor, a Polish-born Jew,
        > and his mother a Russian-born Jew, according to Ms. Sperling. Although an
        > agnostic, Montagu later acknowledged his Jewish heritage. He took his last
        > name after Lady Mary Montagu, an 18th century woman of letters and
        > feminist, and the other parts of his name after other writers he admired,
        > Ms. Sperling said.
        >
        > "I don't know why exactly he changed his name," Ms. Sperling
        > said. "He was ambitious to do great things and as Israel, well, that would
        > have been an impediment in British academia."
        >
        > The classic autodidact, Montagu as a teenager puzzled his
        > parents by visiting London's used-book stores and buying second-hand
        > copies of challenging authors like Thomas Henry Huxley, the British
        > biologist who championed Darwin. At 15, he won a literary contest and
        > selected William McDougall's "Introduction to Social Psychology" as his
        > prize. He was perhaps the first undergraduate to study physical
        > anthropology at the University of London.
        >
        > He pursued his graduate studies at Columbia University in
        > 1927, interrupting his studies there to work in ethnology and anthropology
        > in Italy and physical anthropology at a medical museum in London. He got
        > his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1937 after studying under pioneers of
        > anthropology like Franz Boas.
        >
        > In 1953, he told an interviewer that the United States had
        > had a profound effect on him. "I was brought up a stuffed-shirt
        > Englishman. I wasn't very human. What America did for me was to humanize
        > me. Democratize me, beginning with the man who examined my luggage on the
        > dock in 1927. He didn't call me 'sir' and I resented it."
        >
        > Montagu won his first fame in the 1940s by arguing that race
        > was a social construct, a product of perceptions about race, rather than a
        > biological fact. He was a principal drafter of a U.N. "Statement on Race"
        > in 1949 that incorporated these ideas.
        >
        > His most noticed work, however, was his 1953 book "The
        > Natural Superiority of Women," in which he argued that men were a form of
        > "incomplete" woman and that women were in many ways biologically superior.
        > The attention and the sales from the book allowed him to resign his
        > teaching position at Rutgers University in 1955.
        >
        > The controversy, in those prefeminist days, was enormous,
        > but nonthreatening. With his willingness to return reporters' telephone
        > calls, Montagu was widely quoted and therefore influential. His
        > professorial manner and dry wit made him a frequent guest on "The Tonight
        > Show" with Johnny Carson.
        >
        > A television producer of the day captured his appeal. "All
        > he does is play himself -- a professor," Bob Herridge, a WCBS-TV producer,
        > told an interviewer. "He talks about stuff like early paleolithic culture
        > and stone artifacts of the upper Mesozoic period and you should see the
        > fan mail! It's fantastic!"
        >
        > In later years, he expanded his commentary to things like
        > Ivy League dress. "The Ivy League look in men's fashions is to be deplored
        > on a number of grounds, if not on the ground of taste itself," he wrote in
        > 1958.
        >
        > Although an occasional pipe smoker at one point in his life,
        > he opposed tobacco in public places. If smoking cannot be banned on
        > airplanes, smokers should at least be segregated to the back of the plane,
        > he wrote in 1971. "It would be a simple act of civility and serve to
        > increase the pleasure of both nonsmokers and smokers -- the nonsmokers
        > breathing relatively unpolluted air and the smokers enjoying the pollution
        > of others as well as their own."
        >
        > Montagu is survived by his wife, the former Marjorie Peakes,
        > and three children, Audrey Murphy of Sutton, Mass.; Barbara Johnstone of
        > Princeton, and Geoffrey Montagu of Los Angeles. He also had four
        > grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
        >
        >
        >
      • LJMil@xxx.xxx
        Mark, Nice statement you made about Ashley Montagu. I too didn t know he was Jewish. He s always been one of my heroes. Mike Delaney and I met him once many
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 1, 1999
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          Mark,
          Nice statement you made about Ashley Montagu. I too didn't know he was
          Jewish. He's always been one of my heroes. Mike Delaney and I met him once
          many years ago when he appeared in Des Moines on a panel dealing with public
          health issues. He was delightful and charming and talked with us like old
          chums, no condescension at all.
          Lloyd
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